Opinion: The case for the one-bike stable

By Jeffrey Stern

Walking into my bike shed is overwhelming at the moment. There are frames hanging from the ceiling, wheels leaning against every wall, parts and pieces all over the workbench and the bike I want to ride is always cornered by the ones that I just snapped a cable on, or even worse, are unrideable themselves.

My organization is pitiful right now. Truthfully, it always is.

I’d much rather spend time riding than tinkering and I think that’s why I have so many bikes in the first place. The novelty of a new (or used, but new to me) bike is hard to turn down. There’s always something different about my last acquired two-wheeled machine and I have trouble saying no. As they say, I’m a bike aficionado, and a collector of bike stuff at heart. Getting rid of things is hard, especially when it comes to my modes of transport.

“One day I’ll need this!” I say to myself quite often, while tucking whatever “this” may be into a drawer or corner, unlikely to ever been seen or used. But time and time again, I justify keeping all this stuff.

But what if I got rid of it all and started fresh, with just one bike. Could I do it? How would I decided which bike to keep?

Realistically, my bike shed would have to burn down or somehow disappear into thin air for that to happen, but hypothetically, the thought is very attractive. So much so that the idea of the one-bike stable crosses my mind nearly every day.

I like roads and I like dirt. I like fat tires and skinny tires, slick and big old knobby treads. I truly enjoy the differences and various nuances of them all.

So where would I start? The type of brakes employed seems to be the big question these days and with the proliferation of disc brakes, I’d have to go that route. A frame with ample clearance for my knobs, but plenty of stopping power for high-speed tarmac descents sounds like the perfect combination for my tastes. Ok, so we’re probably talking about multiple wheelsets and only one frame, but I’m fine with that compromise.

Drop bars or flat? This is a tough one. From a pure comfort factor, I think I’d go flat. Plus, it just looks funky and cool and that’s what I’m all about. I’d have way more style riding a slick-tired road-esque cruiser with a set of flat bars. I’d like to believe all the heads would turn, the questions would never stop and I’d grin from ear-to-ear each time.

And what about suspension? My good friend Greg who helped me build my first mountain bike back in the day as teenager said to me once when I asked how in the world he rode down
technical mountain singletrack on a fully rigid, “I’ve got all the suspension I need right here!” as he pointed to his long, chiseled arms. To this day, it makes me smile every time I think about that moment. He’s right, we live in world with too much support and comfort. I’m not a downhiller by any means, and realistically doing a DH course on the one bike in my hypothetical stable is unrealistic and bit beyond the realm of my idea. Full rigid it is.

Material? Steel. Or if I have the dough, titanium. Hands down. The goal is to have this thing outlive me. I want my kids (if I ever have any) and their kids (getting ahead of myself) to be able to ride this thing. They might not think it’s cool and who knows, bikes might be a thing of the past by then, but hey, that’s not the point!

I don’t know the brand of bike I’d choose, but the thought of it is nice. One day, I might just pull the trigger and make it happen. I could probably come away with some extra dough, a whole lot more space (which my girlfriend would love) and one bike that I’d be forced to take extra special care of. Now isn’t that a novel idea?

If you had to pick just one bike to own, what would it be? Tell us in the comments!

Photo by Helena Kotala


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  1. same thoughts for years. last year I have purchased kona unit 27,5+. I am riding it as it came and it is amzing how much can you do.
    go for it!

  2. My one bike stable is a Pivot LES. Sure, I may have access to others but this is MY bike.
    – Summer: Fox 34 120mm fork and 29er wheelset
    – Winter (road): Rigid fork, 29er wheelset
    – Winter (trail): Rigid fork, 27plus or if you get fancy a 29×3.0 front and 27×2.8 rear

    • Left me thinking, a lot! Instead of just adding the 3rd bike, a hardtail, also get rid of the finicky full-suspension rig and make them 2 again. The road bike, well this one is still needed to make up for the legs starting to get older, lol.

  3. Depends on whether you’re talking 3 season or 4 season.

    For a four season “do most anything”, a Borealis Echo/Crestone with a Bluto fork and two sets of wheels (Fat and Plus) is a solid option. That’s my wife’s current rig and my foul weather setup. But not exactly something I’m going to be running at an enduro race (though it has been in the bike park in its plus trim, and did surprisingly well).

    For a three season bike, something like a Santa Cruz Hightower is hard to beat.

  4. Salsa Cutthroat. Loving it. Still haven’t tried road wheels on her since she’s faster on the road with 2.2’s than my Domane with 25-30’s (uphill). Thus far she’s great on gravel and mild singletrack. I haven’t ventured into a rock garden and that will probably start to push my limits on her.

    • That bike is gold for a one bike quiver. Was pleasantly surprised by its on and off-road capabilities as well as the immediate comfort.

  5. Opinions are like a-holes, everybody has one, only mine doesn’t stink. This opinion piece may assist in a first bike, but not all bikes are created equal. Nobody I knows buys multiple bikes at once. Me, I have a roadie and four MTBs – a Cromo 29er hardtail, a Turner Sultan 29er full monkey-motion, a KTM full monkey-motion 27.5 eBike (about my favorite), and the newest is a homebuilt carbon hardtail with long-travel fork, dropper post, and 26″ wheels for durability. They all have their purpose and aspects in which they excel. The best bike – the one I’m riding that day, and they all are in rotation to ride.

  6. While I’m in the process of buying yet another bike…
    I could easily get by with just my Specialized Awol Elite.
    Steel frame
    Disc brakes
    Room for 29×2.1 rubber
    And it currently has a flat bar on it…

  7. My Niner RLT 9. Just sold the Rawland Stag gravel bike and the TREK 520 touring bike, and now my Cervelo S5 road bike is for sale, and I’m only keeping the Niner. It rides like a race bike, loves gravel and pavement, and we can tour on them (my wife has one, too). Full disclosure: I’m also keeping my ’74 Motobecane Grand Record that I’ve converted to a city bike, and my Cannondale Scalpel 29.

  8. Other end of the scale, a do it all enduro type bike – my do it all is from Geometron Bikes with various wheels. Mind, I don’t ride on road apart from to the trails & even that burns the knobs so is avoided ‘;~}.

  9. I still have several bikes, but the one I reach for most is a 30-plus-year-old Fuji mountain bike that’s been repurposed multiple times, with tires evolving from knobbies to road slicks to a medium-wide all-purpose tire that I ride everywhere. Switched the flat bar to a mustache bar to give me a more upright position. I’ve ridden it over the Continental Divide and to the drug store.

  10. I use one bike for all – a Santa Cruz Bronson with Pike RCT dual position fork.
    The bike suspension is efficient enough for flat and uphill pedaling, especially with the adjustable Cane Creek DB air. The adjustable fork helps for proper stiffness, as well as climb angle when lowered. My electronic Di2 drive train has a wide 6.6 ratio from highest to lowest gearing situations from 2 to 35 MPH. The 27.5″ wheels with 2.5″ wide tires are a nice compromise for most all conditions. The adaptability helps handle all terrain, which changes on a lot of rides anyway.

    Having one bike means only one bike to maintain. Unfortunately, it’s hard not biking when it’s in the shop, especially since I ride every day. But I do my own minor maintenance and repair take it into the bike shop for deeper overhaul when I go on travel.

  11. Having gone about 3 years with just 1 mountain bike while saving for the second, one of the best parts of having two bikes is that when I go to the shed to grab bike A to meet friends for a ride and discover it has a flat, I can just grab bike B.

  12. Been looking hard at a Budnitz. IGH with Gates carbon drive. Titanium frame. Looks about perfect for me but I keep stopping when I check the price tag. I’m not sure how long that will keep stopping me though…

  13. One bike from my current stable, I’d keep my Karate Monkey. One bike starting from scratch with a fat wallet, I would get a Ti copy of my Karate Monkey, with the exception of through axles and 30.9 seat post for better dropper compatability. Would need at least two wheelsets either way, a third would be nice.

  14. I think I’d go with my custom built Salsa Marrakesh, with a Rohloff hub, Schwalbe Marathon plus “HS” 404’s,(38’s),a classic Brooks “B17 saddle, and a flat bar. Great setup as a commuter, (which is what I use mostly use it for), but is more than capable for the long haul, be it on road or off.

  15. If you are a cycling addict, it is simply not possible to survive without at least one spare machine. Fifty years of wrenching on bikes has taught me that you need one to ride and one in the repair stand.

  16. For 8 years I only had one bike – a 26″ XC hardtail. No interest in road biking, although I ride the road/fireroad to the trails. Now I own two bikes, but in different locations (where I currently live and my hometown) so you could say I have two single bike quivers. The newer bike is a 650B trail hardtail with modern geo and a beefy 130mm fork. It works great as an allrounder from commuting to gravity trails. I’ll also pop my bikepacking cherry on it this spring.

    I could add a gravel bike and an enduro full suspension, but luckily I don’t have the budget, so I keep things simple and cheap to maintain.

  17. It’s as if I had written this myself. Good to know I’m not alone in this quandary.
    I will always have at least two, but if I could whittle it down, it would be a lightweight steel (or Ti) 27.5 plus rigid with room for 29 slicks, Jones H-bar, disk brakes and a spare wheelset and 100mm fork to swap out.

  18. I love my Kona Big Rove Steel. A tough frame with a mountain bike oriented suspension.
    Started Stock only adding Ergon GP3 grips to increase hand position and a rack for shopping. Eventually added some tougher MTB oriented tires and Maxxis Crossmark IIs. I have realtively fast a pothole handling inner city tank and that’s also single track capable mount. With no suspension, maintenance is a breeze. Still dreaming of a full suspension bike though for those really fun chunky trails.

  19. Either a 2004 Trek STP 400 or 2005 Kona Kula Supreme, with three wheelsets (a reasonable accommodation allowed by the article’s guidelines from my interpretation)and suspension fork with lockout. “Vat’s not to like?”. I know, two bikes, but this is a work in progress, and I am almost there! Work with me here!

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